What is a Monochromatic Color Scheme? 

The concept of monochromatic color schemes is one of the most popular –but also one of the most misunderstood concepts – in the world of color.

In this post, we will explain what monochromatic color schemes are (and what they are not), and how you can use them to the best effect.

What is a Monochromatic Color Scheme?

The term ‘monochromatic’ is derived from the Greek words mono (meaning ‘one‘) and chrome (meaning ‘color‘). Hence, a monochromatic color scheme is a palette comprising different shades and hues of a single color.

Example of monochromatic colors on the color wheel

This is where the misunderstanding about the concept arises, as many people wrongly assume monochromatic schemes to mean the use of a single color in single value, throughout an image, scene, or room. As any designer will tell you, there are innumerable tones, shades, and tints of a single color, and monochromatic schemes leverage all these varieties.

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A monochromatic color scheme will range between darker and lighter shades of the same base hue or color.

The Fundamentals of Color Theory

If you are new to all this or need a quick refresher, below are a few basic terms to be familiar with:

Hue: Hue is another word for ‘color’. To put it more technically, hue is the dominant wavelength in any color. Painters see hue as the purest pigment form of a particular color, so try and think of it that way: the purest form a color that has not yet been altered by tone, shade, or tint.

Tint: Tint is a pale and lighter version of a color, brought about by mixing that color with white.

Shade: The opposite of tint, a shade is a darker version of a color brought about by mixing that color with black.

Vibrance: Vibrance refers to the intensity of the color, and is usually changed by adding or removing gray from a specific color. A color with more gray would be less intense or vibrant, while a color with more of it would have a higher vibrance.

How to Use a Monochromatic Color Scheme

Pick the Base Color

Needless to say, choosing the right base color for a monochromatic scheme is integral, since your entire color palette would consist of variations of that very color. Hence, your base color should create the right vibes and deliver your intended message.

The base color would depend upon your intended audience and communication objectives. If you are experimenting with your personal brand or project, you can dive right into your favorite color and play around with its various shades and tones.

On the other hand, if you are working for a brand, your base color should be in line with the brand’s corporate identity. If you want to make a statement, a memorable color like gold or neon could do the trick, as long as you use it right.

Creating the Color Palette

The next step is using your base color to create the palette. A typical monochromatic palette has between 3 to 7 variations, consisting of tints and shades of the same color.

When using the ColorKit color palette generator you can select the generation method as monochromatic. This will generate a palette only using monochromatic colors.

You may want to start with a bit of experimentation. Graphic design tools like Figma or Photoshop make it quite easy to play around with different tints and shades and design a color palette.

Experiment with multiple variations of your base color, and narrow them down to the 3 to 7 that you feel will work best.

Wrapping Up

A monochromatic scheme is a great way to create a harmonious and visually cohesive look. It helps your content shine through without attracting much attention to itself. The variety within each color allows you to unleash your creativity and create a palette that can be anywhere from bright and bold to cool and calm.

To learn more about color schemes and how to implement them, please feel free to check out some of the other articles.

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